Why You Don’t Need a Screenplay to Make an Amazing Film
As indie filmmakers we throw a lot of obstacles on our own path to creating a feature or short film. No obstacle is larger then the almighty screenplay. How many screenwriters and filmmakers do you know that have been working on the movie script for 3, 5, or 7 years? They keep chipping at it in hopes of cracking that nut or it gives them an excuse for not actually making a feature film.
I was no different. One of the biggest things that slowed, if not stopped my filmmaking journey was “the screenplay.” I decided to see if there was a different way to approach making a movie with my first feature film This is Meg, by creating a very structured story but have a heavy improv element to it.
Here’s the trailer to the film This is Meg we discussed in the episode:
In doing my research I came to realize that in the last few years, some of my favorite films happen to be (almost) entirely improvised. No structured screenplay. Some were huge tent pole studio movies, Oscar winners (Ironically for best screenplay) and small indie films. It certainly seemed to be a more prolific style among independent filmmakers and I find that it can mean success when they cast the right actors. Especially in the “Mumblecore” and “Dogma 95“ indie film movements.
Iron Man had no screenplay?
My favorite “lack of screenplay” story was the Marvel Studios tent-pole Iron Man. You heard me correctly. The film that launched the Marvel Cinematic Universe and that show the word what a great leading Robert Downey Jr could be. It remains one of the most enjoyable adaptations of a Marvel comic book to date.
Take a listen to what Jeff Bridges revealed in a recent interview.
“They had no script, man! They had an outline. We would show up for big scenes every day and we wouldn’t know what we were going to say. We would have to go into our trailer and work on this scene and call up writers on the phone, ‘You got any ideas?’ Meanwhile the crew is tapping their foot on the stage waiting for us to come on.”
Although a story and structure was firmly in place, the dialogue wasn’t – leading to much improvisation on set, which accounts for the film’s energetic, sparky atmosphere.
“I said, ‘Oh, what we’re doing here, we’re making a $200 million student film. We’re all just fuckin’ around! We’re playin’. Oh, great!. That took all the pressure off. Oh, just jam, man, just play. And it turned out great!” Bridges recalled.
Here is a list of film I mention and discuss in detail in the podcast:
- John Cassavetes – Shadows
- Mike Leigh – Vera Drake
- David O. Russell – American Hustle
- Lynn Shelton – Your Sister’s Sister
- Jon Favreau – Iron Man
- Derek Cianfrance – Blue Valentine
- Mark Duplass – The One I Love & The Puffy Chair
- Seth Rogan – This is the End
- Joe Swanberg – Drinking Buddies, Digging For Fire, Happy Christmas
- Daniel Myrick – The Blair Witch Project
- Drake Doremus – Like Crazy
Take a listen on why you don’t need a screenplay to make an awesome movie.
LINKS AND RESOURCES MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE
- Werner Herzog Master Class
- Aaron Sorkin Master Class
- FreeFilmBook.com (Download Your FREE Filmmaking Audio Book)
- INDIE FILM SYNDICATE Filmmaking Community
- IFH’s Online Film School
- Six Secrets to get into Film Festivals for FREE!
As a BONUS take a listen to this SXSW panel on how to shoot a non scripted feature film. Awesome stuff:
Shooting and Editing a Non Scripted Feature Film – SXSW Film Festival
An examination of the changing face of feature film production in the realm of the non scripted, improvised feature film. Acclaimed director Barry Jenkins moderates a panel discussion with Filmmaker Amy Seimetz, Editor Nat Sanders and Director of Photography Benjamin Kasulke to examine their changing roles as collaborative filmmakers in the world of the improvised film.
We will look at the recent trend of improvised feature filmmaking in the American Indie scene and take a technical look at how the roles of Director, Editor, and Director of Photography intersect on a script-less feature film. We will discuss specific examples from improvised feature films worked on by Seimetz and Sanders and Kasulke, two longtime Independent collaborators. Through discussion of filmmaking technique and audience Q&A we will explore the positives and negatives of working in this method.
If you like Why You Don’t Need a Screenplay to Make an Amazing Film, then click below:
Werner Herzog’s Teaches Filmmaking MasterClass Media
Enjoyed Why You Don’t Need a Screenplay to Make an Amazing Film? Please share it in your social networks (Facebook, Twitter, email etc) by using social media buttons at the side or bottom of the blog. Or post to your blog and anywhere else you feel it would be a good fit. Thanks.
I welcome thoughts and remarks on ANY of the content above in the comments section below…